PlanetJune Craft Blog

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Musicians of Bremen punchneedle

I’ve been waiting for a very long time to be able to show you this piece! I was commissioned to make some punchneedle-embroidered artwork in 2009 for a book about stories told through needlearts. Recent years have created an uncertain climate for traditional print publishing, and (to make a very long story short) the book never made it to print. So, after years of waiting, I’m finally free to show you what I made…

Musicians of Bremen punchneedle embroidery by June Gilbank (PlanetJune)

I chose the folk tale of the Musicians of Bremen for my design for several reasons: the story spoke to me; it’s not an obvious choice of story, so it hasn’t been overused or Disneyfied; it features animals; and there’s the iconic image of the animals standing on each others’ backs that I thought would translate well into my artwork.

If you’re not familiar with the story, the four abandoned animals find each other as they each set out alone to seek their fortune as musicians in Bremen, but ultimately they discovered all they needed to be happy when they found a home and the companionship of their friends. I like this moral of simple comfort and happiness.

Musicians of Bremen punchneedle embroidery - detail - by June Gilbank (PlanetJune)
Fine detail in the cockerel and silver mackerel tabby markings.

I designed my piece to be set in the forest at night, showing the animals looking through the window of the cottage that would ultimately become their home. The visual impact comes from the color of the animals and the warmth of the lighted cottage window against the cool, dark background of the forest. I used a palette of 29 shades of embroidery floss in this piece, including a colour-blending technique to add depth to the forest floor.

Musicians of Bremen punchneedle embroidery - detail - by June Gilbank (PlanetJune)
Awww, donkey! Plus some of the colour-blended background.

It took a couple of months to complete the embroidery. The finished piece measures 7 3/4 x 5 1/2 inches (19.7 x 14.0 cm) and is stretched over felt-covered board so it doesn’t need a frame and can be propped on a mantelpiece or hung on a wall. The Musicians of Bremen is my second-largest punchneedle project after my globe (pictured below, with my crocheted orangutan):

punchneedle globe by planetjune

I haven’t had time to make any new punchneedle projects since the globe, but looking at my Musicians of Bremen piece makes me hope I can find some time to start punching again – it makes for such colourful, textural, satisfying projects!

punchneedle embroidery patterns by planetjune
If this post has you intrigued about punchneedle embroidery, please see my Punchneedle FAQ for more info, a tutorial, lots of patterns, and my ebook, The Punchneedle Handbook.


  1. Chelsea said

    I stumbled on this image while doing a Google search for punch needle art, and I clicked through to your page just to say this was my favorite story as a child, and it’s so rare to see references to it because it isn’t popular. Gorgeous work!

    • June said

      Thank you, Chelsea. I’m so glad you enjoyed my work 🙂

  2. Sherrie S. Bryant said

    I would like to purchase the pattern to the Musicians of Bremen. The punch needle pattern would work fine. I can enlarge it. I am a rug hooker. You do beautiful work. Thank you.

    • June said

      Thanks very much, Sherrie, but please see my previous reply to Becky about the feasibility of a pattern for this design.

  3. iHanna said

    Wow, what a beautiful embroidered image. Love how the dark and light plays of each other, and how the colours mingle!

  4. Ana said

    This is so beautiful! What an amazing piece of art 🙂 Shame the book did not happen.
    You make me really intrigued about this technique! Will sure have a look now.

  5. Becky said

    That is amazing. My sister actually lives in Bremen and I was raised with that story. You didn’t happen to make a pattern for that? It would be such a great piece to make 😀

    • June said

      Becky, I wish I could, but I’m afraid it’s a design that wouldn’t easily translate to a pattern – although the end piece looks deceptively simple, there’s actually a lot of detail in the sense of very tiny areas of colour and loops that have to be in exactly the right place to look right (the colours on the cockerel and cat; the outlines of the dog and donkey; the stripes between the logs of the cottage, etc). To make those areas look good, the stitches have to be ‘groomed’ into position from the front after punching them, and that takes a lot of additional work.

      There’s a reason why I call this ‘art’ and not ‘craft’: it’s not easily reproducible, so it would make a very poor pattern. It’s the same with my crochet art pieces – all my art is actually much more difficult to create than you’d imagine from looking at the finished pieces. There are a lot of design decisions and simplifications that go into my patterns that make them easy to follow and complete.

      I could release my original Musicians of Bremen drawing that I used as my pattern, but without several pages of detailed explanation to back it up and me making a second one(!) so I could photograph instructions for the more advanced techniques, it’d lead to a lot of frustration and disappointment, so I think it’s best to just leave it as one-of-a-kind art!

  6. Annkari said

    Love it! I live 50 km away from Bremen, so I’ve known the story since I was a little kid. Great needlework!

  7. Judy Carlson said

    June, I have been thinking about you and punchneedle lately because I have picked up the Serengeti Sunset again. I am almost finished! Oh, I hope you do have time to do more punchneedle! I would love it if sometime you could make tips available on how to design a punchneedle picture. I could wing it but you have such a good eye!

    • June said

      Judy, I think I may have mentioned before that I have an ebook idea along these lines – but who knows when I’ll have time to make it reality! I already have a notebook dedicated to it though, and I write my thoughts in it whenever a new tip or idea comes to mind, so I very much hope to make the ebook happen at some point 🙂

  8. Kateryn said

    Is it just me, or that cat looks a lot like Maui? 😉

    • June said

      Heehee, well, I did start out with Maui in mind – it’s quite appropriate for this story, as, once upon a time, Maui was found abandoned and injured on the streets, before he came into our family, so he has a lot in common with the musicians… But I decided a silver tabby would have more contrast against the background, so the cat is Maui-inspired, but not actually a hidden portrait of him 😉

  9. Monica said

    AMAZING! Beautiful detail and colors! I love it! I love that story, too, my grandma used to read it before bed to me, along with many other classics 😀 You do amazing work in all areas of craft June! Thanks for sharing!!!

  10. Heidi said

    Beautiful! I especially love the cat’s markings.

  11. Gillian McMullen said

    Unbelievably beautiful! You are an artist, June, and I feel so lucky to be able to see and use your designs. Thanks for sharing this with us at last!

  12. Lindy said

    This is brilliant! You’ve really made the story come to life! Both the detail and the whole picture are fantastic. Love it.
    Love, Lindy xx

  13. Wow, that just fabulous, June. It is a shame the book didn’t see the light of day, but I’m so glad you were finally able to share that picture.

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